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|Venezuelan museum's missing Matisse painting thieves sentenced in Miami by US federal court|
In this file combo shows the original painting by Henri Matisse titled "Odalisque in Pants," left, next to a fake version that was on display in the Sofia Imber Contemporary Art Museum of Caracas, Venezuela. On Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2013, a federal judge in Miami sentenced a Cuban and Mexican 33 and 21 months in prison, respectively, for trying to sell the painting by Henri Matisse stolen from the Museum of Contemporary Art in Caracas. The Caracas museum bought it in 1981. AP Photo/Sofia Imber Contemporary Art Museum, File.
MIAMI (AFP).- A US federal court handed down prison terms Tuesday to an American man and a Mexican woman for trying to sell a $3 million Henri Matisse painting stolen from a Venezuelan museum.
Pedro Antonio Marcuello Guzman, a 46-year-old resident of Miami, was sentenced to two years and nine months in prison, while 50-year-old Maria Martha Elisa Ornelas Lazo of Mexico City got one year and nine months.
The pair had initially denied in court that they conspired to transport and sell "Odalisque in Red Pants" but then changed their story, and pleaded guilty in October.
Venezuelan authorities realized in 2003 that the painting hanging at the Museum of Contemporary Art in the capital Caracas was actually a fake. The exact date of the theft is unknown, though December 2002 has been suggested.
The indictment accused Marcuello of negotiating the sale of the Matisse for approximately $740,000 during several meetings with undercover FBI agents. The painting has been valued by experts at $3 million.
Marcuello also agreed to have the painting transported by a courier -- identified as Ornelas -- to the United States from Mexico, where it was stored. In July, Ornelas brought the piece to Miami from Mexico City.
Undercover FBI agents posing as buyers recovered the Matisse in August in Miami and arrested the two suspects.
© 1994-2013 Agence France-Presse
January 24, 2013
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